Abu Sayyaf militants killed nine people and wounded 16 others in an early morning attack Monday on a southern Philippine village which may have been in retaliation for a series of battle setbacks, officials said. Among the dead were villagers and a militiaman.
The attack happened after the military rescued last Sunday a Vietnamese held by members of the terrorist group, also in the province.
The militants fled and were being pursued by government forces.
Troops have launched pursuit operations against the suspects.
"They are cowards because they couldn't face their military adversaries", Hataman said. It is one of the Islamic-extremist groups in the Philippines that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State notorious for kidnapping for ransom, bombings and robberies in the southern Philippines.
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"We have been conducting continuous operations against (the militants) involving airstrikes".
The media reported that it was unknown whether or not the rescue operation and the attack were linked.
The Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf is led by Isnilon Hapilon, who moved to Central Mindanao to join the ISIS-linked Maute Group that attacked Marawi City on May 23, igniting a war that continues to rage almost three months on. The following month, however, troops recovered the bodies of Hoang Trung Thong and Hong Van Hai, who were decapitated.
Rear Adm. Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, confirmed the rescue of the victim who had been allegedly held captive by the Abu Sayyaf group for months.
Military southern command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez said the government offensives would continue "to neutralize the remaining Abu Sayyaf bandits, who are on the run now".